By Linda Levine, Dining for Women Traveler and Member of the CA, Saratoga-1 chapter
Greetings from Thimphu! I’m having an amazingly colorful time on my Dining for Women trip to Bhutan. When Sandy (Baily) and I arrived in Paro along with three other DFW travelers, we received white welcome silk scarves. One of our guides, Rabten, warmly placed them around our necks much like welcome leis in Hawaii. We then took a minivan through the lovely countryside to Thimphu, the capital. It was our first glimpse at the incredible architecture of Bhutan and the adults and children wearing the national clothing called Kira’s and ghos, for women and men respectively. Details
By Ellen Williams, DFW Traveler and Member of the WA, Spokane Valley-1 chapter
Guru Rinpoche, Precious Master, rode upon a flaming tigress to mediate for four months in a cave now located on the lower floor of the monastery. At this site, the iconic monastery is nicknamed Tiger’s Nest. Guru Rinpoche established Buddhism– the everyday fiber that holds Bhutanese national identity. He is said to have possessed supernatural powers to subdue demons and evil spirits. His birth was foretold by Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha. This legend has turned the man into a powerful Buddha who can take many forms and possess many powers. Details
50 million years ago the Indian plate collided with the Eurasian plate to give rise to the Himalayan mountain range. A mountain range that continues to grow 1 cm a year. What a vision of beauty with high peaks, and breathtaking glaciers and valleys. Nestled in this mountain range is the beautiful landlocked country of Bhutan. Flying into Paro, Bhutan from Kathmandu in Nepal brings this beauty to the fore. Looking out of the plane window, our pilot gently reminds us to look out at Mount Everest, majestically bursting through the clouds at 29,029 feet. As we approach Paro, our plane banks to the left and then to the right between high ridges for a thrilling picture-perfect landing in Paro. Details
It was fitting to start our first full day in Guatemala going back in time to the Iximche /ee-sheem-chay/ ruins between Antigua and Panajachel. Iximche was the capital of the Kaqkichel Mayan Kingdom from 1470-1524 prior to Spanish conquest. Over 100 structures have been found at Iximche which is composed of four large plazas strung out along a ridge and protected by a deep moat. Buildings include palaces, numerous pyramid temples and residences, and a couple of ball courts. Details
By Emmy Holt, Dining for Women member, SC, Greenville-7 chapter
After being served breakfast at the hotel, we walked down to the dock in Panajachel where we climbed into motor boats and crossed Lake Atlitlan (translation: “near the volcano”) to San Juan La Laguna. What a beautiful lake, formed from a crater after the 1853 volcanic eruption! The lake connects the villages, is 12 miles long, and over 1000 feet deep. From the lake we could see three cone-shaped volcanos- Atitlan, Toliman, and San Pedro. Details
By Suzanne Spitzer, Dining for Women member, SC, Greenville-7 chapter
Guatemala faces some of the highest levels of violence against women and girls in the world, has the third highest femicide rate globally, and ranks third lowest in the region on the Gender Inequality Index. Rural indigenous women and girls are disproportionately impacted due in part to their social isolation and limited access to resources. Details
Walking from my room along the beautiful Chez Lando’s fragrant paths, lined with neatly trimmed green hedges and what seemed like the aroma of honeysuckle, on my way to our morning gathering. Air shifting, not quite a breeze but enough to fill my ears with the sound of a certain humming of activity throughout the grounds, all a pleasant and soothing start to what would, in contrast, be one of the most emotionally intense days, for me, of our learning journey to this amazing small country in the middle of East Africa. We were off first to the deeply inspiring Nyamirambo Women’s Center, in one of the poorest traditional neighborhoods in Kigali, to learn how women have taken matters in their own hands, struggled to earn, to learn. In the afternoon, the Kigali Genocide Museum. After a delicious cup of coffee with hot milk and an omelette at our lovely hotel Chez Lando, I boarded our bus with incredible curiosity, excitement, along with a bit of jet lag. Soon, though, I was completely immersed in the incredible day that was to follow…..although a long-time advocate for women and children and a donor to women’s giving funds, I am entirely new to Dining for Women (DFW) and can’t wait to get out and see some of the projects that have been funded and learn what’s working, what’s not, and what information we might gather from the women in the community to take back to DFW. Details
On Day 3 of our amazing Dining for Women Rwanda trip, the major focus was gender equity. Some background: women are remarkably well-represented in the Rwandan government. When Rwanda ratified its constitution in 2003, they outlawed discrimination to prevent the ethnic persecution that resulted in the 1994 genocide. But beyond ethnic equality the constitution also established gender equality, and many new laws were enacted. The constitution requires that 30% of government decision-making positions be held by women. In fact, that target has been exceeded across the government: 64% of the parliament representatives are women – the highest percentage worldwide! Details
It was day 4 and after breakfast, we were off to visit one of the DFW grantees, SHE (Sustainable Health Enterprises). As we boarded the bus for our venture into the countryside, we were pleasantly surprised to be joined by Connie Lewin, Director of Strategy for SHE (and a DFW Board member) and Danielle Raso, Business Development Associate. Both work in the New York office, and it was an amazing coincidence that their trip to Rwanda overlapped with ours. We were also joined by Flora Ufitinema, Field Operations Associate, and Daria, Business Development Manager, who both reside in Rwanda. Details
Another beautiful African morning dawns as we sip our strong coffee and prepare to visit the facilities of Gardens for Health, just outside of Kigali. We have a full day’s visit planned with lots of interesting interactions along the way. It feels great to get off the bus and have an opportunity to walk around the farm where so many things are happening all at once. We are greeted first by Bailey who offers us an overview of the goals and objectives of this energetic non-profit. Details
As part of Dining for Women’s Travel Program, a group of travelers will visit Rwanda February 18-25, 2018. DFW member Linda Baxter lived and worked in Rwanda and shares her experience in the country.
In 2014 and 2015, I was living in Rwanda and working for the Human Resources for Health (HRH) project. Our goal was to assist the staff of the University of Rwanda in their efforts to improve medical and nursing education and practice. I was assigned to a more rural school of nursing and midwifery in the town of Gicumbi (Byumba) where I worked with faculty, and students – in classrooms as well as the hospital and local health center. Details
Members have been telling me for over two years about the importance of our travel program, how it has transformed their lives, and how they feel more connected to the women and girls we support through our grantees. Announcing our new travel provider in May means that soon you will have that again!
We introduced Elevate Destinations to you in our May announcement, but I want to know who will be planning these trips. Katherine Redington is Elevate’s Director of Donor Travel and I asked her a few questions so we can all get to know her better. Details
Eighteen DFW members recently spent a week getting to know the students and staff at the Mariposa DR Foundation. The program brought us all closer to the work this program does to empower girls who are living up to the legacy of their namesakes. Details
The Mariposa DR Foundation takes its name from the Mirabal sisters, revolutionaries knows as “Las Mariposas” (The Butterflies) whose tragic end but courageous fight is a source of enormous pride in the country. Details
Those who travel with Dining for Women are personally seeing the similarities in girls’ struggles around the world, and how two of our supported programs are helping those facing the biggest biases and lack of opportunities.Details
Those of us who arrived in Lima before the official first day of the DFW 2014 Peru trip, were invited to join the Lima chapter for their October meeting, We had no idea what to expect. We were overwhelmed by the joyous welcome of our hostess Elle Bagnarol and the chapter members. Details
We departed Puno on the morning of October 28 to drive through the mesmerizing Altiplano to Cuzco. A visit to Sillustani revealed pre-Incan mysteries and culture as we learned about this burial ground of the nobility of the Colla culture. Details
First off, I really enjoyed the very short but sweet stay we had at Llachon. The food was delicious (especially the fried cheese for lunch) and the families were very hospitable. I would definitely recommend a homestay at Calixtos hospedaje. Our mamacitas gave us little bouqets of geranium flowers and munyo. Details
Was there great curiosity as we arrived in Llachon for our first homestay? Absolutely yes! The people in Llachon speak Quechua as their first language with Spanish as the second. But the real language was that of human kindness which needs no translation. Details
Our loads considerably lightened after distributing baby clothes and supplies, maternity gowns and medical supplies, we spent some time in the town of Pucallpa. We took a boat ride in the lake and saw many vultures, tuki tuki birds and had a wonderful lunch at a floating restaurant with our friends that are beginning to feel like old friends – not strangers that we met five days ago!
We motored by the bathing spot for the vultures. After cleaning in the lake, they stand on the bank and spread their wings to dry. Very impressive! (some of us thought menacing would be a more appropriate adjective!)
There are many small green plants floating on the lake. They were so thick that the tuki tuki bird appeared to walk on water. When the tuki tuki found a promising plant, he would flip it over and eat the insects off the bottom.
We learned an interesting old tale. It was feared that dolphins stole women by impregnating them. No women were allowed to swim in the lake during the time they were fertile!
Tonight we head back to Lima and a few hours later we head to Puno and our home stays.
As we finish off the first part of our trip, I’d like to extend a sincere thanks to everyone who donated and helped us collect supplies. They were very gratefully received!
November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It’s a day selected to coincide with a date very important to the founders of the Maiposa DR Foundation. Read why.Details
Fifteen US-based DFW members embarked on a journey to Peru. Their first stop was an very special opportunity to break bread and join with DFW sisters in the Lima, Peru, chapter for a meeting, to share and learn about each other and about our featured program for October – Bumi Sehat. Chapter Leader Eli Bagnarol sends this post on the experience. Details
One of our members questions why we offer costly travel programs when that same money could go so far to support our programs. Patricia Andersson, DFW’s Travel Program Director, explores the responsibilities of privilege and the value of our trips. Details
Ever wondered how to read about some of the trips the Travel Program has taken? This post will show you the easiest way to access the travel blogs, plus give you a taste of our recent trip to India.Details
Life is a series of special connections and we never know where threads will lead you. Travel Program Director Patricia Andersson ties up the threads in this look at how the travel program and our October 2014 featured program Bumi Sehat are connected.
Our travelers visiting Cambodia-Vietnam in February 2014 met several women who are beneficiaries of the work of Children of Vietnam and its Empowering Foundations program. Dang Thi Thanh’s story is one of them. Details
Each of three small groups were guests at a beautiful, bountiful luncheon which had been prepared by single mothers – recipients of DFW micro-loans to Children of Vietnam’s Empowering Foundations for Women & Children (EFWC).
How appropriate that the last line of the DFW Dinner Affirmation reads, “May we all be able to feast together some day.”
(And then, of course, there were the dishes to do!!!)
Feb. 22 — Our day started off rainy and cool. We spent most of the morning in the wonderful Ethnographic museum learning about the 53 ethnic minorities which together make up 14 percent of the population. Later, we visited an ancient Confucian university with its lovely gardens and shrine. The rest of the day was deeply meaningful. Details
Feb. 21 — Our first full day in Hanoi and what a day it was! Our first venture was a walking tour of the old city and our first lesson was learning how to venture down the sidewalk together and to cross a street and survive! We learned that we had to carefully venture out, never hesitating, never running, and not trying to go back. Details
FEB 19 — At 9AM sharp our group gathered together to finally meet each other and embark on our first day of adventure in Cambodia. We had an entire very warm day of touring the temples at Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, the jungle temple. Details
DFW travelers receive blessing at a Buddhist monastery
By Thora Pabst
FEB 20 — Our group, perhaps a little worse for the wear, left bright and early for Tonle Sap Lake, the largest fresh water lake in Asia. This area supplies the majority of fish brought to the market. Life on the water can be challenging in so many ways. Homes are generally on stilts to receive the benefit of breezes and protection from rising waters during the rainy season. Modern amenities are virtually non-existent. Though their situations seems cobbled together, the residents appeared undeterred in their pursuit of daily life. Details
During the afternoon, we headed to the Munda tribal village on the outskirts of Ranchi. The projects in this village are overseen by Matrichaya graduate, Bacchan Devi. Bacchan is a shining example of the ever widening circle of women. When she heard about Matrichaya, she thought because she was uneducated, she wouldn’t qualify. Details
The day began with a visit to the Spoken English and Computer Literacy programs for girls. Each is a three-month program. These are introductory classes, and the current group of students has had only had one week of classes. All of the girls are from impoverished families. Details
The Pushkar Fair, also known as the Pushkar Cattle Market or the Pushkar Camel Fair, is a world famous event. It is held annually in the month of Kartika (October/November) ten days after the festival of Diwali. The Pushkar Fair is one of the largest cattle markets in all of Asia, and a major attraction for visitors to India. Details
Today is a day that all of us have been looking forward to since signing up for this Indian adventure. As we enter the Vatsalya building, we are again greeted by the lovely Jaimala. Today is a workshop day, so the women are sitting on the floor, sewing, measuring, and marking fabrics with Executive Director Colleen Cline. Details
On Nov. 9, after our visit to the Taj Mahal and on our way to the Agra Fort, we rode through an agricultural area with miles of recently harvested flat land, providing a respite from clamorous and congested Delhi. We saw no villages or houses, just the highway and farm land. In the middle of nowhere, a restaurant appeared, where we had a buffet lunch. Details
The Amber Fort in Rajhastan is yet another architectural marvel. We were all stunned by its beauty, design, and engineering — the result of almost unlimited resources. It was constructed by the Hindu Kachhawaha, who were allied with the powerful Muslim Mughal Empire. It was built in 1592 by Maharaja Man Singh I on the remains of an 11th century fort.
This morning we drove to the outskirts of Jaipur into the countryside and down a rugged dirt road to the orphanage run by the organization Vatsalya and directed by Jaimala, who has an MPH from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Details
The astonishing white dome, barely visible in the hazy morning sky, rose above the deep red stone wall. Just this preliminary glimpse of the iconic Taj Mahal was sufficient to bring a collective gasp of awe from our group. We had waited in line for an hour and a half and that moment made it all worthwhile.
We piled into the bus at 6:15am for a short ride to the Taj. Our most excellent guide, Sujata, secured our tickets and we joined the already lengthy line. We had heard the day before that the sky would be hazy in the morning, but we decided to take our chances, As we came at last to the red stone gate, the Taj Mahal was framed in the arch like a mirage. I was surprised to find, in spite of the growing crowd, that each of us could capture that moment on our cameras unobstructed.
Now the Taj could be seen in all its splendor. In the gauzy light, the Taj seemed constructed from the sky itself, floating above the earth. We spent quite a bit of time photographing the Taj and each other in front of the Taj, interspersed with long moments contemplating its ethereal beauty. We also had a group picture taken before making our way down the steps onto long path to the world’s most famous tomb.
We were up and out of the hotel by 6:45 a.m., headed back to Kairali spa for morning yoga in their beautiful garden. Our instructor, Swami Ganeshanand, is the founder and leader of Ananda (Bliss) Yoga. Dressed in traditional white guru garb, he moved us through an energetic practice focused on quick repetitive movements synchronized with powerful exhalations to detoxify, energize, and open the body and mind. The alignment cues were minimal – and as a yoga therapist – I was worried about the members of our group with lumbar and shoulder issues. My sense is that the acute focus on anatomy in the U.S. is a point where East and West diverge. Perhaps the truly integrated practice is a place where the traditional practice, with its emphasis on spirituality and energetcs, meets the modern view of wellness.
We ended with a lovely guided savasana, listening to the urban birds singing their Delhi morning songs. As we came to standing – Swami Ji announced that we would be ending with Laughter Yoga, throwing his arms up into the air and releasing the most contagious laugh I have ever heard in my life! We all joined in, arms extended toward each other with the Swami at the center of our circle. “It is important every day to laugh”, he said. “It releases stress and warms the spirit.” Wise words from our wise teacher.
Travelers on last weekend with their guide – Manuel (center). Back row (L-R): Sue Fernbach, Colleen Blanchfield, Cristina Ramey, Rosemary McGee, Sheila Cook Front row: Lauren McCarthy, Manuel and Lynn McClenahan
By Christine Ramey Atlanta (GA)
Friday morning, October 11th, we are up for our last day in Panajachel where we have until 10am before our journey to Antigua begins. Some of us head off to a used Huipil Market, others take a walk to Lake Atitlan to enjoy the view one last time and several wander the main streets of Calle Santader for some last minute bargain shopping.
At 10am, we load up our bus with our trusted driver of Four Directions, Noel, and take off. Not too long after taking a final ascent up our favorite windy road of Panajachel, we come to a complete stop amidst a parking lot of traffic. We discover that the local community is protesting the high cost of electricity. This puts a less than desirable kink in our journey, as we make the decision to turn around and head back down into Panajachel to take an alternate route. What would have been a roughly 2.5-3hour trip, quickly turned into a 5 hour ride! But, hey, we can at least say we experienced everything Guatemala has to offer, right! Details
Our DFW adventure officially began on Nov. 6, Wednesday, with everyone arriving throughout the day.
We met at Grace Home – situated in a trendy area of South Delhi – and a small group of us shared dinner and got to know each other. After breakfast on Thursday, we gathered together and shared our experiences with DFW. Taryn Walker, trip leader, also asked that we share an attribute we bring the group, and something we would like to work on personally while traveling in Inda. Details
We started our morning leaving our hotel, Utz Jay, which today I discovered means “good home”, to walk over to the Mayan Cultural Center where we would spend time with our third organization, Oxlajuj B’atz’, or Thirteen Threads.
Receiving a warm welcome by the ED Ana Socorro Cumatz, we enter to find a room full of beautiful Mayan women and an altar that has been set up for us to participate in a Mayan ceremony. We were given some background on the altar set before us. Oct. 9 is a particularly special day as the Nawal-Energy is B’eleje’ B’atz’ signifying the female energy of the universe. Details
We visited Mercado Global on Wednesday and saw a different side to traditional Mayan weaving. Mercado Global has 31 cooperatives with about 340 women across Guatemala. It is a fair trade fashion nonprofit that sells wholesale to Anthropologie, Lucky Brand Jeans, Levi’s, Red Envelope, Henri Bendel, Calypso, and some Japanese retailers, among others. Although it is based in New York, the bulk of the staff are in and around Panajachel. Mercado Global’s immediate goal is to double its number of cooperatives/women in the next year but its larger objective is to change how the fashion industry operates, especially since the majority of workers in the industry are low-paid women. Details
We woke to a glorious sunny morning in Pana today and after a quick (but delicious) breakfast of fruit and banana bread headed off to visit with Friendship Bridge located around the corner on Calle Santander.
We were greeted warmly by Marta Ixtuc, Communications Coordinator and all around promoter of Friendship Bridge’s mission. She gave us a quick overview of the Microcredit Plus Loan Program, which received a DFW grant in 2007, and emphasized their dual mission of providing loans as well as education to Guatemalan women since 1998. Details
After breakfast at our hotel, Utz Jay, this morning we took the one and a half block walk over to Starfish One by One. Melanie was our guide for the day and greeted our group with many hugs and warm welcomes!
After introductions to the staff and volunteers, they gave our ladies an overview of the services which include tutoring and mentorship programs for first generation high school students. Most of the girls are the first in the family to graduate due to many economic and social obstacles. This is where the work of the mentors fits in. Because parents haven’t received formal education, they often don’t understand the opportunities and benefits that can help the whole family after educating their daughters. The girls who are selected enter into a six-year leadership program. There are 220 girls currently enrolled. Since the pilot program in 2008, Starfish One by One has had 13 graduates, 7 of which are in university! For this team, it isn’t about how many, but rather how far one girl can go! Details
View of Volcán Atitlán, Volcán Tomilán & Volcán San Pedro at Lake Atitlán overlook.
By Christine Ramey
Another early day greets us as we wake up in Panajachel for breakfast at 7am. Once our bellies are full and happy, we are all gathered up and ready for our bus ride to Totonicapán, a 100-kilometer ride through very windy mountainous terrain, which left a few of us (me included) a little queasy. We are with our same guide from yesterday, Julio with Four Directions, who starts our morning off with a question, “is your heart happy today?” Which definitely puts one in a great mood! Before we took off officially from Panajachel, we stopped off at an overlook to see the gorgeous view of Lake Atitlán with three of their volcanos set as the backdrop; Volcán Atitlán, Volcán Tomilán & Volcán San Pedro. Some of the ladies even managed to get in some early shopping of jewelry and handmade figurines, as there were street vendors at the stop. Details
We started our tour of five visits to featured organizations at MayaWorks, spending the better part of Thursday and Friday there. MayaWorks uses traditional Mayan weaving techniques to create products for an American market, such as luggage tags and yoga bags. Jeannie Balanda is the director of MayaWorks and accompanied us both days to introduce the women, give background, and translate. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet with several groups of women weavers and seamstresses, as well as some of their students. Details
The Guatemala travelers: Front row L to R- Colleen Blanchfield( Detroit, MI) Sheila Cook (Columbia, SC) Sue Garcia (Erie, CO), Karen Rawley (Weavers Way, PA), Lynn McClenahan (Portland, OR). Middle Row (L-R): Lauren McCarthy (Minneapolis, MN), Sue Fernbach (Asheville, NC) , Cindy Badocious (OH), Meg Sears (Bowling Green, OH), Cristina Ramey (Atlanta, GA), Rosemary McGee (Abbington, PA), Caarol Huckabee (Danbury, CT), Kira Walker (Atlanta, GA- trip leader). Back row: Barbara Myers (Newton, CT), Stephanie Sawyer (CA), Erica Crawford (Santa Cruz, CA).
By Lauren McCarthy
We are all here! A few members of our group arrived early, but as of Wednesday at noon we have all made it safe and sound to Guatemala! We have had sunny and warm weather (about 75 degrees) and felt safe, although it is a bit conspicuous being with a group of 17 gringos.
After we got our luggage (and everyone’s arrived) and went through immigration and customs, we met our driver, Noah; tour leader Alfonso, and group leader Kira Walker, who were waiting for us. Details
By Patricia Andersson Portland, OR, chapter leader
Update #2 from Borneo: Our luck has been continuing on this trip — finding lost cameras, rains not arriving until the completion of a big celebration, and biggest of all — everyone staying happy and healthy. We’ve just wound up three amazing days with ASRI/Health in Harmony in Sukandana, and are heading off tomorrow to visit the orangutans. In Indonesian, the word orang-utan means “person of the forest” and indeed their word for person is orang, which makes it an easy one to remember. As always, I’m trying to learn a bit of the local language, and have down a few phrases, which I trot out much to the amusement of the local “orangs.” Occasionally I unknowingly toss in a little Spanish too, having only one file in my brain called “foreign language.” Big laughs, at my expense. Details
We began our day with a walking tour of Old Town Hoi An. Well preserved temples, pagodas and ancient homes line the vibrant narrow streets. UNESCO has named this a World Cultural Heritage Site. Centuries old structures gave us the feeling of walking through 16th century Viet Nam. Our guide bravely took us through the Hoi An market to look, not shop! The bustling market was bursting with exotic fresh fruits, vegetables fish ,and meats. Open kitchens serving fresh local dishes, flowers, and spices all contributed to the visual and aromatic delights. Artisans sold their crafts, vendors offered silk scarves, kitchen utensils and so much more. Details
Since our group split up to visit the women in the Children of Vietnam program, here are a few notes from Group Three’s meetings. The beneficiaries in our group were: Mai, Nhung, Mui, Trang, Chi, Dao, Bich, and Ha.
This is Mai’s story.
Mai has been in the Empowering Women Program since 2009. She is a hairdresser. Details
Living in Washington, DC, I tend to think of a nation or a destination in terms of its monuments and memorials. So, during this week in Vietnam, as I have seen 200-foot tall Buddhas, statues, etc., I immediately assume “National Monument” and try to find out what it is in my guidebook or from my Vietnamese contacts at home. Finally, one Vietnamese friend texted, “Remember, very few national treasures remain in Vietnam today.” Details
Why do we travel? Pico Iyer, the esteemed travel writer, says “We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.” Certainly a Dining for Women trip does just that.
After a full first day, culminating with dinner and a water puppet show with the 13 sweet girls, age 4 to 16, of the Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam foster home, we started the second day slowly with a rickshaw ride. Details
There was definitely an energy of celebration in the air as we headed toward that hospital in the morning. Mother’s Day in Nicaragua is a national and obligatory holiday. Imagine that! Only the restaurants and stores are open and everyone is shopping for mom! As we passed the market, I saw a large table completely filled with mother´s day cakes, a yellow cake with bright white frosting and lots of red frosting roses with Felicidades a Mamá written across the top. I bet there were 50 of them, monitored by two young boys, towels in hand, swatting at the ubiquitous flies that were trying to land on these masterpieces. Details
The chairs were two deep in the hallways when we arrived at the hospital for our second day of the mission. By 11:00, we had interviewed 30 patients and were well into seeing them in the treatment rooms. There are usually 4 treatment rooms running at one time – each one lead by one of the four medical professionals on our trip. Pam, Ilana, Ann, and Karen. Our mission is to teach the Nicaraguan staff and ideally graduate them to teaching their own staffs in outlying hospitals how to perform the cervical screenings and remove pre-cancerous lesions on their own. Sadly, most of the clinics don´t have the equipment needed to remove the lesions, either by freezing them (cryotherapy) or excising them with a live wire (LEEP). Training is one issue and funding equipment to do so is another. Details
We began the day on the rooftop of the Hotel San Francisco, connecting our DFW hearts and minds with a gentle yoga practice overlooking the city of Granada. It felt so good to move and breathe together. I taught the group Trimurti and Yoni mudras (hand gestures associated with the feminine body, mind, and spirit), uniting our intention of women helping women, as we headed for Leon and the beginning of our true meaning for being in Nicaragua, our medical mission with PINCC, or Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer. Details
Manuel, our guide, and the lovely Flavia met us at 8:00 for our kayaking excursion on Lake Nicaragua. The double kayaks offered us a stable entry into the second largest fresh water lake in Latin America. We began our journey exploring the calm estuaries of the Peninsula de Asese. Surrounded by water lilies and mangroves, we wove in and out and around small islands that are most likely the result of volcanic activity from 10,000 years ago. Details
OK. We’re heading for Jubilee House – part of the Center for Development in Central America – and there is some confusion going on in the front seat. I hear jubilado which means ” retired” and I’m wondering if we might be somewhat off target, when we arrive, after numerous twists and turns, at the old folks home! Hardly the fair trade, conscious community we were hoping for. Details
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. -Lau Tzu
Headed for Nicaragua TODAY – for a medical mission – my first! The opportunity is part of the Dining for Women program – thanks to Jill Haas for inviting me to be a part of the Milwaukee chapter. I will have the opportunity to visit numerous projects funded by this group – including a completely independent women’s sewing cooperative in Managua. Details
Today, we began our last day together in El Salvador. As we climbed into the van I found myself feeling a bit sad, as we have made such wonderful friendships in such a short period of time. We traveled to a local clinic not too far from our bed and breakfast, in San Miguelito. Details
Today was our second clinical day with PINCC, in a location they have yetto have the opportunity to work. We traveled to Soyapango, a distance outside of San Salvador, to work in another clinic that strongly served women´s and community health and was an urgent care facility at night, thus giving 24 hour care. Details
An early start to our first day with the PINCC team included a hearty breakfast at 6:30 and filling two vans that headed out of San Salvador to the town of Nejapa. There we joined 33 doctors and nurses for a day of training. The nurses and some of the doctors (this week known as students) learned about the disease process of cervical cancer and the visual inspection procedure with acetic acid (AKA common kitchen vinegar) known as VIA. This is the low cost, very transportable, visual screening that PINCC takes on the road to low-resource countries. Details
Today is Wednesday and I woke with a migraine. So I stayed home to sleep in my dark room until it passed. Waking in the early afternoon, I take this time to reflect on my first day at the clinic. Nearly 60 women were treated in an energetic setting of Salvadorean doctors whom PINCC has trained to teach the screening procedure (maestras). Also present were about 15 to 20 doctors and nurses being trained by the maestras to perform the vinegar procedure. Details
Today we worked at the clinic in San Jacinto, about 45 minutes outside of San Salvador. The doctors saw about 45 women. Once again, I was given the opportunity to do interviews. Nearly half of the women I interviewed had experienced some form of sexual abuse. They never included those experiences when they gave the number of their sex partners. There were psychologists on hand to counsel these women. Details
Our first day in action with PINCC sped by! Severe traffic delayed our start which added to the frenzy. We worked at a Pro Vida clinic in Nejapa, where women had already been screened for the services offered today. There was an entire courtyard of women waiting when we arrived! Work stations were established, rooms were stocked, paperwork was stacked and patients were seen. Details
Today we hiked around the perimeter of the volcano. On the hike the contrasts of the beautiful country of El Salvador were once more in evidence. Wizened bare chested men carried lush calla lilies and colorful tropical blooms on their bent backs. A woman in her thirties did not smile for the camera because her front teeth were missing. We pondered why they were missing from her mouthful of healthy teeth. Details
Today our travels took us northwest of San Salvador to visit two different archaeological sites. One was discovered in 1976 by accident, as land was being cleared for construction. It has since led to the unearthing of several homes from the year 590 AD, when an explosion of the Laguna Caldera covered the indigenous people and their homes with molten lava.
Typically there were three buildings in a housing complex: one for storage, one that served as a kitchen and one was for sleeping. However, after seeing the hard bed platforms in the dormitories, it was a far cry from what we know as beds today! Details
Visiting the women of Pajaro Flor in Suchitoto today was like visiting a success story that is written in Dining for Women language. Although not a program supported by DFW, it is a clear example of strong women taking a stand for their rights and empowering women in their community to better themselves and their families.
This group was founded in 1991 near the end of the Civil War in El Salvador when it was seen as an important time for women in the history of their country. The founders of Pajaro Flor seized the opportunity to help women access land of their own, increase the awareness of domestic violence and strongly denounce it, and encourage women to participate in their local communities and governments. Details
Yet another whirlwind day, filled with history and brutal truths of the Salvadorians’ not so distant past. We visited Arch Bishop Romero’s home and the chapel he was shot in while giving a mass to the people. He was killed by a sniper in March, 1980. He was so admired by the people of the country that 1 million attended his funeral in the central town square. Sadly, more snipers used this as an opportunity to kill 60 people on that Easter Sunday. Details
Today we traveled for an hour to San Luis Ranchos, along narrow and winding mountainous roads. We stared in awe at the vistas and gorges of tropical green forests along the way.
Arriving in a remote village, we were so excited to meet the women at the small center, made of metal walls and roof, which is supported by CIS and SEW (Salvadorean Enterprises for Women). We were greeted with open arms and huge smiles by Delmy, the community women’s organizer, and her team of four other mothers from the local area. Also, with them were two scholarship students who are in the process of attending university through the generosity of CIS. The women shared their stories and told us what their participation in the co-op (dying Indigo and sewing school uniforms for government contracts) has given them. Details
After months of correspondence and anticipation I finally got to meet our team outside the San Salvadorian airport in a humid 84 degrees. Although we came from all corners of the US, we speak DFW and instantly connected as sisters!!! Details
By Angie Maddox
It’s hard to believe almost a month has passed since my return from Kenya. I think of the people and landscape everyday – constantly throughout the day. I’m often asked about the experience and my response remains the same – Amazing! Incredibly kind people, gorgeous landscape, and I’m still very much processing the experience. Details
This morning I sit watching wildlife from the Mountain Lodge, our home (with WiFi) for a few hours before we begin our journey toward Maasai Mara. In my last post I mentioned visiting communities. One of the communities we visited a couple of days ago in the Samburu region is a community funded through The Boma Project. It’s difficult to express in words the experience and the feeling of being greeted and welcomed into this community – there were so many senses stimulated. Details
Before heading for the hospital, Patricia and Carol worked together to assemble the group, in full scrubs, for a photo. These two groups have melded seamlessly into one over the past 5 days. In our group meeting, the PINCC volunteers admitted they were skeptical about the “Dining for Women” volunteers when we came in on Sunday. They´d already had a full week together and were very close, but the lines have completely blurred now and I can sense a gratitude that flows beautifully both ways between all of us. Ann and Karen have even expressed an interest in joining a DFW group when they get home. Another full circle. Details
Julio, our guide, arrived at 8:00 sharp for our walking tour of Leon. After a few short blocks, he conscientiously sat us in the shade in front of a large mural that related the history of Nicaragua from its indigenous roots to the current president, Daniel Ortega. Interspersed with our history lesson, Julio encouraged members of our group to read aloud pieces of literature in English, merging sentiment and imagery with fact. Lezli and I took turns reading A Roosevelt by Rubén Darío, which speaks directly and frankly to the bullying of Latin America by the U.S. government. Details
Friday morning. Our last day with the medical mission. The workload was lighter than expected as a group of 19 women, that we were hoping would arrive from a distant village, were unfortunately not going to be able to make the trip to the clinic. The interpreters were sent into the hallways to do patient education and do interviews assessing the level of knowledge patients had about health issues in general, and cervical cancer, specifically. Details
By 8:00 a.m, we were in the hotel lobby, wearing our scrubs and ready to go. We each made a name tag that could be easily pronounced by our Nicaraguan patients. Lezli, Catarina, Daniela, Lina… then made some adjustments. The hospital was crowded, inside and out, packed with people waiting to be seen. We moved through the non-air conditioned hallways, heading toward the air conditioned conference room to meet the Nicaraguan doctors, nurses, and residents. This is a teaching hospital, and some of the medical staff has worked with PINCC in the past three years, practicing to gain proficiency with the procedures to prevent cervical cancer. Details